The Diversity of Taste

If by now you still believe that all whiskies of one type taste the same, then let us be the first to tell you that you’re wrong. Though origin, ingredients and the production process may be the same, contrary to vodka, there are vast differences in the taste between distilleries. The maturation in casks is especially significant for the later aroma of whisky. This is because it offers myriad possibilities for distinction.

It’s up to you, which type of whisky suits your taste. It’s interesting to note that, blended whiskies and common Bourbons are the most popular, since they’re easy to enjoy. Connoisseurs favour Single Malt Scotch Whisky or Small Batch Bourbons. For these particular bottlings, whiskies are matured extensively and the casks are selected more carefully for their scent. In any case, The Thirsty Barber suggests you to try the different types of whisky to draw your own conclusions.

Malt Whisky

This type of whisky ranks amongst the best whiskies, and is predominantly produced in Scotland. This particular variety may only be produced from malted barley and has to be distilled in pot stills. The production process of malting is intricate and used to be very time-consuming and physically demanding in the past. Fortunately, technology has made this process industrially optimised.

The whisky is usually distilled twice on pot stills, then it’s matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years. However, the experienced connoisseur usually demands a much longer maturation. The word ‘single’ may be added to a whisky if all the casks used for bottling come from a single distillery and haven’t been blended with whiskies from other distilleries. Single Malt Scotch Whiskies customarily come from five regions: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Island and Campbelltown. The different regions are famed for specific characteristics like fruitiness, freshness, maltiness and smokiness.

Grain Whisky

Originating from Scotland and Ireland, This whisky isn’t made from malted barley. It can contain any type of grain, also a mixture. Today grain whiskies mostly contain wheat, since they offer a higher utilisation level than corn, which was used in earlier times for cost cutting purposes. Grain whisky can be distilled higher than malt whisky in column stills, but contains less flavours.

Produced primarily for the blended whisky industry and is almost always distilled in the cheaper column stills, it’s only matured for a rather short period of time. Since 2014 there have been increased efforts to place mild grain whisky on the market, also as single grain bottlings.

Blended Whisky

This can contain any mixture of different whiskies (malt, grain). These whiskies differ in type, but especially in their origin, i.e. the distillery they come from. The character of a blended whisky is determined by the ratio of whiskies from different distilleries, since each distillery produces different flavours.

For the well-known brands the ratio is always the same, so the flavour doesn’t change. In order to be able to produce these large amounts of blended whisky, there are malt whisky distilleries that produce exclusively for the blended whisky industry and don’t bottle any single malts. Most blends contain more grain than malt whisky. The higher the malt whisky ratio, the better the blend.

Production Process

Pot Still Distillation

The invention of distillation made high-proof spirits such as whisky possible in the first place. During distillation, an alcohol-water solution (beer or wort) is heated in a pot, and the alcoholic vapour is collected by means of a bent pipe. For the production process of whisky this technique is applied with copper pot stills.

The fermented liquid is filled into a big distillation pot and heated from below or inside. The vapour is led up through the neck and subsequently cooled down so it becomes liquid again. After some hours, the distillation is finished. This production process is repeated one or two times. However, the pot must be cleaned before the next batch.

Column Still Distillation

The industrialisation era introduced the principle of column still distillation in Britain. This method allowed a continuous distillation process without having to clean the stills laboriously after each consignment. This laid the foundation for reasonably priced whisky. In big distilleries in the US, all whisky was distilled in column stills right from the start. You only rarely find a pot still there.

Type and Duration of Maturation

After distillation, the new make spirit is not yet whisky as we know it. It only becomes whisky by being matured in oak casks. Other types of wood are seldom used in countries such as Sweden or Germany, but they’re not allowed in Scotland and the US.

The type of cask determines the duration of the maturation, since fresh casks – contrary to used casks – release many aromas in a short period of time. Depending on the country and the type of whisky, by law the spirit must mature for at least 2 years (USA) or 3 years (Scotland, Ireland and Europe). Letting the whisky mature longer than the minimum amount of time affects the quality and consequently, the price of the whisky. Single Malt whisky is often only appreciated if it is 10 years old or older.

Spelling

Depending on the country of its origin, whisky is spelled with or without an e. In Ireland and the US, it’s usually spelled whiskey, while Scotland and the rest of the world use the spelling whisky.

We hope you found these facts about whisky interesting. If you want to come and explore the different varieties of this drink while sampling different drinks originating from different parts of the world, then pop by at The Thirsty Barber.

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